Sunday, 9 December 2007

What Makes a Good Manager?

Nowadays, one can find countless books about management. Several courses are also held every year about a number of management issues. In spite of all this information about managers, it still appears to be fairly difficult to provide a detailed answer to the following question: what makes a good manager?

Living in Malta for most of my life, I have noticed that managers are frequently appointed to such a position after having spent many years doing, more or less, the same set of activities. In such a case, the assumption seems to be that once a person has become highly skilled at the job he/she has been doing for several years, that individual could be a good manager. I find this assumption to be extremely faulty and I will explain why.

First and foremost, I consider management to be an academic discipline. There are various ways in which a company or a department could be managed; the management discipline explores all the facets related to each approach as it tries to map the pros and cons of every one. As a field of study which requires a certain amount of effort to master, it seems totally illogical to appoint a person with no background in management studies to a position which calls for a particular set of skills. When this happens, it is as though a lawyer were being appointed to conduct a surgical intervention!! Sadly, I still see this event occurring quite often in numerous Maltese companies.

Apart from the importance of being familiar with a number of management principles and techniques that only a solid study of the field would normally provide, I also believe that a manager's social skills play an extremely essential role in determining his/her performance in such a position. I have come across some managers who have no idea about working as effective team leaders or as people who contribute to the development of the individuals they manage. While receiving incredibly high salaries, such "managers" act more like slave masters; their roles are often simply confined to giving out orders, delegating tasks that they do not want to do to those who cannot say no, and pretending to be know-alls. On the surface, such people seem to be performing well since they convey the impression that they are hell-bent on achieving the company's goals. When one takes a closer look, however, the situation is usually as follows: the "slaves" taking the orders from the manager cannot stand the person and even though the main objectives are achieved, the "slaves" do not feel any enthusiasm to be pro-active. The "slaves" tend to realise that their master dishes out all the dirty work to them and eventually portrays himself/herself as the one who did it all when dealing with the directors; this also breeds a great deal of resentment and kills the enthusiasm that is necessary for a company to really advance. In the long run, when slave masters put excessive pressure on their "slaves", the latter frequently end up leaving the company. Of course, this creates disruptions in the company's activities, but the trusted manager can always come up with a nice story to convince the directors that the "slave" was a weakling and that leaving was the best thing that person could do! These situations - which still occur quite frequently - say a lot about how poor the social skills of many "managers" are!

It would take a great deal of time and space to go into the details of what makes a good manager. The aim of this post was merely to stimulate the readers to think about this issue. As I set down some of my thoughts, I wanted to draw attention to the shocking fact that there are still many people who are being appointed to a managerial position for the wrong reasons.


La delirante said...

Prosit Dave!! Very well written post and very interesting too!. Fortunately my manager is the best boss I have ever had and I would think more than twice to leave my current job specially because I know I would never find such a great boss (and colleagues too, apart from that I like the company very much too). Unfortunately I have had terrible bosses in the past and totally identified with the slave masters you mentioned in your post. I had to do the job of three persons and was being paid peanuts. The managers were not part of a team but were only interested in boss around and assign unfair tasks (such as staying at the office until very late or going on Saturdays or Sundays for instance) As you well mentioned, as an employee who is in need of the jog (wages actually) one can't just say "no" point blank. Then one leaves as soon as a better job is available and the manager blames it all on you! "the trusted manager can always come up with a nice story to convince the directors that the "slave" was a weakling and that leaving was the best thing that person could do!" Prosit and keep on writing!


David Cuschieri said...

Grazzi hafna, sweetie! :) Very interesting observations!

Los Erhardt said...

I completely agree with you, many of the managers get that position just because of time, not knowledge, and the consequences are,most of the time, people leaving their jobs because of them. But I think that it happens because many directors of companies are the owners of them, and they have the money, but not the knowledge to recognize the difference between a person who has the capacity to grow, and a person who is just persevering, and stays doing the same thing for years.
The pity of it is that there is a lot of people who has the capacity and the knowledge to work in management, but because of the way as the business goes nowadays, they have to do just the job they find.


David Cuschieri said...

Ari, thanks for your interesting comments! It is very true that there are many companies, especially in Malta, where the managers also happen to be the owners. As long as such people are not equipped with the necessary knowledge to run all the aspects of the company well, disaster is usually the inevitable consequence of poor managerial skills.

Having said the above, it is important to shed light on these matters. By exploring these issues, it becomes easier to measure the dimensions of the problem of having poor managers ruining the lives of countless individuals. Furthermore, it is essential to promote more research about how to acquire the ingredients which make a good manager so that we can all live in a better society.

Lupideloop said...

Hi Dave.... an interesting post and a difficult one to define! Books have been written on the Managerial Role and yet I feel they still have not covered the full implications of what makes a good Manager.

Some points I have picked up over the years in my position are, in no particular order, as follows:

A) The importance of teamwork (as already mentioned by you) and the understanding of the workload and procedures being faced up to by the employees.

It is all very well to sit back on your high chair and say - do this and do that, but it goes a long way to create that team spirit and comradeship between employees and between the workers and the management if consideration of the type of job requested is taken into account. A manager getting down and getting his hands dirty on the nitty gritty jobs once in a while is a good thing I think.

B) Knowing the employees, their needs, their strong points as well as their weak points, their fears and any personal aspects that may effect their performance.

The Manager is not a God! He is a human just like the rest of his employees and getting to know them personally and understanding the way they click is important. At times showing toughness when needed, but being ready to act as a councillor when personal problems may be effecting an employee's performance is just as important I think. A friend who will get tough when needed.

C) Knowing the works and not showing hesitation in taking decisions - ie Leadership

Its up to the Manager to show the way... confidence in the job will rub off on the employees and create a healthy atmosphere.

Anonymous said...

It is one thing to be a slave and quite another to know you do something your superior has no knowledge to do. Furthermore, when you ask; they are no assistance in areas of discretion. They lap up the rewards and garner opponents when you extend on a task and it does not go as well as it should saying they are overwhelmed when you know full well they are bored. - I consider it a form of sabotage and have no regard for the employer- treason. Yet forced to quit while they have allies in that regard. Terrible.